Kitchen Goodness

Photo Challenge Day 4 Says, “Cheese!”

Posted by on Jul 16, 2015 in Blog Posts, Kitchen Goodness | 2 comments

Every good Southern girl knows that having an exceptional homemade pimiento cheese recipe in her repertoire is as necessary as knowing the proper ratio for sugar to tea liquid in another Southern staple.

Today’s photo challenge at the SITSgirls blog was all about aiming the camera at kitchen concoctions and causing the reader’s mouth to water.

Admittedly, I’ve taken my share of raunchy food photos in an attempt to highlight a dish I had prepared. Rather than causing others to salivate, I’m afraid they may have been as disgusted as I was with the completed feast featured on film.

So, I was thrilled with the tips offered today and found some time this afternoon to treat my pimiento cheese to a food styling makeover. Hinting at some of the flavor ingredients are tiny basil leaves and a teeny rosemary sprig adorning the top of mounded goodness.  The recipe follows the photos below.

Pimiento Cheese 1 by

Pimiento Cheese 1 by

Pimiento Cheese 2

Pimiento Cheese 2 by

Pimiento Cheese 3 by

Pimiento Cheese 4 by

Pimiento Cheese 5 by

What do you think? Which photo is your favorite?

Hankering for the recipe? Here you go:

Amy Ward's Pimiento Cheese
Taking a true Southern staple and giving it a makeover with updated ingredients, hints at summer lunches of days gone by while welcoming this classic into a new era of newer and readily available ingredients. Grab and toast a couple of slices of hearty wheat bread or go old school and spread the yummy goodness on two slices of white bread. This makes a great appetizer served on small toasts (like Alessi brand in the photo) or your favorite cracker.
  • 1 8-oz. block of Cabot low-fat sharp cheddar cheese, grated
  • ½ tub of spreadable low-fat cream cheese
  • 1 4-oz package of Athens crumbled sundried tomato and basil feta cheese
  • ½ cup low-fat mayonnaise (or as much as you prefer to achieve a creamy consistency)
  • 1 roasted red pepper (packed in water and drained), chopped
  • ¼ tsp beau monde seasoning
  • ⅛ tsp Tony Chachere's seasoning or black pepper
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh rosemary
  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all ingredients well. Spoon into a covered container and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.
  2. Enjoy!
  3. It yields approximately 1½ cups.


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Country Captain, a Columbus, Georgia Original Gets a Weight Watchers Makeover

Posted by on Jun 24, 2015 in Kitchen Goodness | 0 comments

Besides our being famous for the creation of Dr. Pemberton’s Coca Cola and being the home of AFLAC, my hometown Columbus, Georgia (sharing the same roads with Ft. Benning) is also known for the Southern staple Country Captain. The Junior League of Columbus has kept the recipe in its cookbooks dating back to my earliest copy from 1957 to its newest from 2010. They say it originated here and in the South, that’s gospel when it comes to claims of food. Don’t mess with us, Darlin’.

According to the cookbooks when General George Patton was en route through Columbus from Ft. Benning he wired ahead saying, “If you can’t give me a party and have Country Captain, put some in a bucket and bring it to the train.” They would! Smart General. The newest Columbus Junior League cookbook Pull Up a Chair: company, conversations & cuisine further tells the origin of the recipe as being created by Mary Blackmar Bullard in the early 1900s. Her daughters shared it with family and friends. In addition to Patton’s love for the dish, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt enjoyed it so much that he hired the family cook right out from under the Bullards and moved him to the White House. 

A few days ago, I set out to officially test my new version of this classic dish using a slow cooker and making it Weight Watchers friendly. If you know anything about the recipe, that’s no small task because the true Country Captain dish has fried chicken in it and honestly, it’s not the same with grilled or even letting the chicken cook from the start in the sauce with no breading. Yuck.

I posted pictures on Facebook and because I have a few young military wife friends, the pictures got comments requesting what this dish was? They’d never heard of it. So today, I want them (and you) to know how to prepare this dish in a simpler and healthier way. I think the General and President would still request it were they still alive.

Country Captain Makeover
An original from Columbus, Georgia dating back to the early 1900s gets a makeover for better health (Weight Watchers Points Plus values included) and ease of creating in a crockpot. Enjoy!
Recipe type: Main Dish
: Southern USA
Serves: 6 servings
  • 24 oz. package Tyson frozen fully cooked lightly breaded chicken breast strips
  • 2 (14.5 oz cans) Hunts fire roasted diced tomatoes with garlic
  • ½ cup water
  • ½ Vidalia onion, chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1-2 tsp curry powder
  • 1 chicken bouillon cube
  • -----------------------------------
  • 3 cups cooked rice, kept warm for serving
  • -----------------------------------
  • ¼ cup dried currants
  • ¼ cup slivered almonds
  • 1 green onion, chopped
  1. In a slow cooker sprayed with cooking spray, lay the frozen chicken strips. Cover with remaining ingredients, except rice and last three ingredients.
  2. Cover and cook on LOW heat for 4-5 hours or until bubbly. Stir to combine all ingredients.
  3. Serve over ½ cup rice per person. Top with the remaining three ingredients evenly divided among servings.
  4. Enjoy with cooked haricot verts or a green salad (Points Plus value not figured into recipe for additional items).
Based on Weight Watchers Points Plus system, this has a value of 8 Points Plus per serving.

I gathered the ingredients:


Then put them in the slow cooker:


And I waited for them to do their thing over the course of six hours. Considering that the chicken was cooked, but frozen, I assumed six hours would be a tad too long but I had to be away from home and trusted that the LOW setting was going to be just fine. It was long enough to make the chicken begin to fall apart, so I would recommend to start with four hours and check to see if cooking should continue. Be sure to stir at some point so all flavors have time to marry. Serve over the hot rice and top with almonds, currants, and green onions.

The not fried, but breaded and precooked chicken gave me the taste and consistency to which I have grown accustomed in Country Captain. Eating a controlled portion that had points comparable to most recipes for main dishes in Weight Watchers afforded me the tasty compromise I desired. Enjoy this classic Columbus dish do-over. It’s some gracious goodness on a plate.



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A Vinaigrette for all Seasons

Posted by on Sep 10, 2013 in Kitchen Goodness | 4 comments


I love a good salad to the point that I can crave a meal of luscious glistening greens, a delicious vinaigrette, and some form of protein and be simply happy!

I believe that a wonderful blend of colors and textures in a salad is tantamount to a salad’s success.

A dressing is meant to enhance the blending of elements rather than drown the contents.

“Vinaigrette is to salad

what diamonds are to ears

and draperies are to windows.” – Amy Ward

My idea of a vinaigrette is a luscious and balanced emulsification of the sour, the sweet, the fat, the seasonings in fresh herbs and onions/garlic, and the right amount of salt and fresh cracked pepper.  Blend in a blender or shake in a Ball jar and you’re sure to be satisfied when you drizzle it over your fresh collection of greens, added bonus items for color/crunch/texture, and protein.

“What I say to vinaigrette before dressing the salad, ‘You complete me.'” – Amy (Chuckle)

My recipe for you today is yours to create based on the season of the year and/or the items you already have in your pantry.

When I make a vinaigrette, I use:

  • something sweet like honey, agave nectar, genuine Maple syrup, or sugar
  • something sour like cider vinegar, white vinegar, balsamic vinegar, champagne vinegar, red wine vinegar, or tarragon vinegar
  • a fat like extra virgin olive oil or canola oil,
  • dijon or spicy mustard
  • some freshly chopped shallot, Vidalia onion, green onion, or chives
  • kosher salt and cracked pepper
  • occasionally a splash of Worcesteshire sauce

A Vinaigrette for all Seasons
This vinaigrette is a foundational formula for incorporating all good things into a wonderful blend that enhances the freshest of greens, some type of protein, and additional ingredients to round out a salad fit for enjoying as a meal in itself.
Recipe type: Salad Dressings
Serves: 4-6, depending on the size of salad and how much dressing you prefer.
  • 2 teaspoons of sweet (honey, agave nectar, Maple syrup, or sugar)
  • 4 Tablespoons of sour (a vinegar of your choice)
  • 7 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil or canola oil
  • 1 round teaspoon of dijon or spicy mustard
  • 1 teaspoon chopped or grated shallot or onion (or chopped green onions)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon of chopped fresh parsley, or basil, or rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • Fresh cracked pepper
  • Splash of Worcesteshire sauce (optional)
  • 1 ice cube (if mixing in a Ball canning jar)
  1. If mixing in a blender, combine all ingredients except oil.
  2. Cover the blender, leaving the opening cover loose so you can gradually add the oil blending as you add.
  3. Pour into a spouted serving container or into a covered storage container.
  4. Serve right away or chill first.
  5. If mixing in a Ball jar, combine all the ingredients, including the ice cube.
  6. Cover.
  7. Shake, shake, shake.
  8. Chill or serve over salad right away.
In Autumn, I love using the Maple syrup (real stuff, not Aunt Jemima) as the sweet part of this dressing. The sour part is apple cider vinegar. Toss in roasted pecans for a bit of crunch, some thinly sliced apples and diagonally sliced fennel along with grilled chicken breast and bleu cheese crumbles and you have a wonderful salad. For the greens, use a blend of spring greens and frisee...stunning!

In Winter, I enjoy the dressing with tarragon vinegar and sugar. For the greens, I use spinach. For the protein, sliced London Broil and/or hard boiled egg pieces. Add pan sauteed mushrooms. Top with French's fried onions. For a bit of color, toss in roasted beets. Need more, add a sprinkle of bacon.

In Spring, grilled salmon is the protein, wonton strips and slivered almonds provide the crunch. I like a white balsamic vinegar flavored with raspberry for the sour, honey for the sweet. Add mandarin oranges and chopped celery.

In summer, the protein is sauteed shrimp and some feta cheese. The greens are romaine. The crunch is chopped cucumber and pan sauteed corn fresh from the cob. For color add grape tomatoes, halved. The dressing is white vinegar, canola oil, and honey for the sour, oil, and sweet. If you can find Greek seasoning, use that for your herbs.

Lots of options! Be creative!

Bon Appetit in Jesus's name.



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Two Recipes for Getting Family to your Table

Posted by on Aug 2, 2013 in Kitchen Goodness | 10 comments

Preview{This summer, I’ve been part of a group of women who have been reading and discussing at (in)courage’s Bloom Book Club Shauna Niequist’s book, Bread and Wine: A Love Letter to Life Around the Table. In July, I was privileged to share my story of life around my grandmother Mama Smith’s table on The Bloom Book Club Facebook page.

As part of the finale and a link up with others , I’m posting that original piece here today along with a bonus not included that day.  It’s a recipe for Mama Smith’s style of macaroni and cheese. But first, my story of life around her table.}


My Grandmother’s “Recipe”

My grandmother’s recipe for gathering her large family together was this: If you cook it, they will come. As a little girl growing up, Sunday dinner after church was at my grandmother’s house and the memory is delicious.  She cooked it and we showed up for it!


Hopping out of my parents’ car, I heard the laughter of cousins, aunts, and uncles from within her country place mingling with the sound of ice being scooped into glasses for holding sweet tea with a lemon wedge and fresh mint.


Within a few feet of her screen door on the porch I smelled the fragrance of Mama Smith’s fried chicken wafting along the humid South Georgia air. I confess, I was so enamored by this fragrance at times I wouldn’t wash my hands after consuming my share of fried chicken wings (that was the part of the chicken that no one had claimed as theirs).


As the screen door slapped shut, my grandmother’s welcoming hug would wrap us in her apron as she clutched us in her hands with sore thumbs (from laborious tasks like shelling, snapping, and shucking), delighted at the sight of us all.


My siblings and I worked our way to the table where food was placed awaiting the hungry swarm to descend and devour its bounty. Eyes level with the table and fingers poised for sneaking would grab bites of warm cured ham as our secret appetizers.


Mama Smith was in her element managing her small country kitchen with its simple design and far from gourmet accoutrement.


Oh, the meals and memories she conjured up with that weekly dinner following that simple recipe!


Besides her fried chicken and cured ham, she blessed her large family with fresh everything: homegrown tomatoes, butterbeans, green beans, and creamed corn. I can’t forget the macaroni and cheese, potato salad, deviled eggs, and a congealed salad. Homemade pickles, cornbread, and brown and serve rolls finished out the meal. Dessert offerings were strawberry shortcake with fresh whipped cream, coconut cake, pound cake, or chocolate layer cake.  Food from scratch was the norm, not mixes.


{I should have eaten lunch before I wrote this because I am salivating at the thought of all the goodness.}


Every dish she prepared on Sundays, and any other day for that matter, stirs up more sweet memories with a pinch of melancholy as I miss the sweet communion of family time and fresh offerings filling her table and our stomachs as we filled our hearts with laughter.


Mama Smith has been gone for some time now.  Yet, there is so much of her that is baked into my own existence as a wife, mother, and soon-to-be grandmother:

  • spreading joy while putting the spread on the table
  • getting pleasure out of the planning, picking, and preparing a meal
  • welcoming others to the hearth hub where they are sure to gather and linger and,
  • keeping that simple recipe intact will certainly keep the family time intact.


If you cook it, they will come!


My grandmother new the recipe and made sure to share it, and for that I am thankful.

Macaroni and Cheese
I don't have Mama Smith's custard style macaroni and cheese recipe, but this is a close match, minus the eggs.
Recipe type: Pasta
: American
Serves: 6
  • 2 Tablespoons corn starch
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ½ teaspoon dry mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • 2½ cups skim milk
  • 2 Tablespoons butter
  • 2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Sharp Cheddar or Colby cheese, divided
  • 8 ounces large elbow macaroni noodles, cooked according to package directions and drained
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Spray a 2-quart casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray. Put the drained noodles into the dish. Set aside.
  3. In a large microwaveable bowl, combine first 5 ingredients. Add butter.
  4. Cover the bowl with microwave-safe plastic wrap and place in microwave on HIGH for 3 minutes.
  5. Remove and stir with a whisk. Return the milk mixture back to the microwave and cook on HIGH 3 more minutes.
  6. Remove and stir. If mixture has not begun to thicken, return to microwave for an additional 3 minutes on HIGH or longer at 1 minute increments. Stir to check progress after each minute.
  7. When the mixture is the consistency of melted ice cream, stir in 1½ cups of the cheese. Stir to melt the cheese.
  8. Pour this sauce over the noodles in the casserole dish (see second step above).
  9. Sprinkle remaining grated cheese evenly over the top of the noodles and sauce.
  10. Bake 25 minutes or until lightly browned.
Although I prefer to use large elbow macaroni noodles, they aren't always available. Regular elbow will do just fine. Or, you could use ziti noodles.
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The Cherry Pitter – Why You Need One

Posted by on Jul 29, 2013 in Kitchen Goodness | 1 comment

TherCherry pittere are some things in my kitchen I wouldn’t know were missing or misplaced because I may not use them frequently. However, this contraption would be sorely missed at this time of year especially should I open my drawer to find it gone!  Horrors!  That would be a Goodness Gracious! moment for sure.

Did you know that cherries are in the grocery store and that you should enjoy them? Did you know that you should enjoy them because they can help you sleep better, fight off cancer, prevent aging, fight off pain of arthritis and gout, and help cure migraines? Sure, drink the healthy concentrate from the juice but I say, enjoy the fruit, too!

Ah, but there’s one thing that may hold you back from buying them.  Dare I say it.  It’s the pits.  Yes, the pits are keeping you from enjoying the healthy components of the delicious and juicy merlot-colored spheres.

Here’s the kitchen utensil that will save you and cause you to run to the grocery today to grab some antioxidant cherry power, after you purchase the utensil of course.

Enter, the cherry pitter.  No kitchen should be without one.

Here’s mine happily posing by some before cherries in a colander and the after ones ready to be tossed in a spinach and almond salad with a light summery vinaigrette (recipe later this week…what a tease!).

Still not sure you need to invest?  Worried of the juice splatter staining your white shirt or kitchen counter?  Well, have I got a tip for you! When you are ready to pit away, grab a plastic grocery bag, place the stemmed cherry below the black upper piece that’s right below the tube that pits the thing, put your hand with the pitter in the plastic bag and press down on the pitter.  Pit and any extraneous juice are captured in the bag and not sprinkled on you. Tah and Dah!

Where to get your pitter?  Mine is an OXO brand that I found at Bed Bath & Beyond.

Pay day is a couple of days away, treat yourself ($13 plus tax, minus a few pennies if you have their coupon) to a useful gadget that won’t make your life in the kitchen the pits.

That’s some gracious good news for your health and your kitchen.

Life doesn’t have to be all about the pits, you know!


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Quick Ravioli for Two

Posted by on Jul 22, 2013 in Kitchen Goodness | 5 comments

Recently, I found a yummy recipe among my stash of cookbooks. It is a Weight Watchers Recipe and I almost hesitate to mention it here because you are going to assume I am a member of WW, first of all. Secondly, you are going to assume I am losing weight. Lastly, you are not going to read any further because you have a preconceived notion that a WW recipe is going to be nasty.

Allow me to set the record straight on all three points:

  1. I am a member, several times over, of the WW. I’m a slow student. Go figure. Where is my figure?  (Chuckle.)
  2. I won’t say. I don’t know. Scales scare me.
  3. You’re wrong. It’s not nasty.

I updated this recipe to reflect my tweaks in ingredients and directions. Their original recipe had four-cheese ravioli and I prefer mushroom ravioli. The original recipe had no herbs and I grow fresh ones. Where they called for canned diced tomatoes, I use the newer fire-roasted tomatoes available in cans because they impart a depth of flavor.  If you can find them with garlic and Italian herbs, grab that can. Grab more than one can! Glorious!

Remember, it’s for two.

A note about my photo…I focus more on the recipes than the photography as you can tell.  Notice the splash of sauce around the rim of my pasta bowl? Yeah. I’m sorry. I won’t show you the splash on my clothes.

The happy part of this recipe? It is all done in ONE POT! Gracious goodness? Yes!

And as a final note…my husband picked up his pasta bowl to drain the last of the sauce from the bowl to his tummy.

Quick Ravioli for Two
My rendition of an older Weight Watchers recipe lends itself to delicious goodness all from one pot to a beautiful plate. Enjoy! Points Plus value is 7 points (8 points if you use four cheese ravioli instead)
Recipe type: Pasta
Serves: 2
  • ¼ cup chopped onion
  • 1 14.5 ounce can fire-roasted tomatoes with garlic
  • ½ cup of water
  • 1 T. catsup
  • 1 T. chopped fresh basil
  • 1 T. chopped fresh oregano
  • ½ T. chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 9-ounce package fresh mushroom ravioli (I used Buitoni from the dairy case)
  • 2 cups fresh spinach
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 T. grated Parmesan cheese
  1. Combine first 7ingredients in a large saucepan; bring to a boil.
  2. Add ravioli; cover, cooking 5 minutes, stirring frequently. You may want to reduce the heat to medium or medium-high.
  3. Uncover, and cook an additional 5 minutes or until ravioli is cooked through, stirring occasionally.
  4. Add the spinach and fresh ground pepper. Cook for 2 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.
  5. Remove from heat, and let stand, covered, 5 minutes.
  6. To serve, divide the amount between two plates or pasta bowls.
  7. Sprinkle each serving with half of the Parmesan cheese.

I bless you to enjoy your kitchen today and I pray that you will be grateful to the Creator for all the ingredients He made to go into this simply delicious dish.

Bon appetit, in Jesus’s name!




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